IN MEMORY of THERON McNEIL
April 01, 2021
It is with deep sorrow, enormous respect and tremendous gratitude that the Board of Directors of Nevada Legal Services (“NLS”) marks the passing of our fellow Board member and friend Theron McNeil. We offer our heart-felt condolences to Theron’s family, his many colleagues and his many, many friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.
We could not let this occasion pass without expressing the huge impact Theron had on us at NLS. Few people exemplify the caring spirit or the profound commitment to equal access for low-income communities to the American justice system that Theron did. We know Theron was a veteran of the Vietnam War and we applaud his service to our country. We did not know all aspects of Theron’s life endeavors, but we know that service to others was fundamental to his being. Although Theron was not a social worker, he exhibited in great abundance all the hallmarks of one – empathy, dedication and courage. Most of all, he personified compassionate humanity.
To our understanding throughout his adult life Theron was deeply involved with legal services for poor, disadvantaged and marginalized communities. He had a passion for improving the lives of vulnerable communities by broadening their knowledge of their legal rights and their ability to participate in our legal system. We learned that before moving to Nevada, he served with legal aid organizations in other communities, including Delaware County, Pennsylvania and the Client Council of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (“NLADA”). It was at NLADA that we believe Theron received training in 1978 in landlord/tenant rights, welfare rights, economic development, unemployment insurance eligibility, legislative advocacy and fundamental advocacy and skills training. The knowledge he gained there fueled his lifetime of advocacy and service.
The drive to advocate for others Theron manifested in the East did not lessen when he moved West. After he moved to Las Vegas his introduction to NLS occurred when he contacted our organization to come out and talk to residents of a local senior citizens apartment complex about remedies for deficiencies in the quality of their living conditions. He then volunteered to work with NLS and became a member of the NLS Board of Directors in 2007 as a representative of the interests of the clients we serve. At the time of his passing Theron was our second longest-tenured Board member.
We admired how tireless Theron was in his quest for education of our client populations about their legal rights and importantly, using the legal system to resolve disputes and controversies. He organized countless community legal education classes. Beyond that, for a period of time he also hosted a weekly radio show on a Las Vegas AM station that featured guest speakers and took listeners’ questions about landlord, tenant, consumer and other everyday legal questions. He empowered members of our marginalized communities to use their voices to stand up and help themselves through legal recourse.
After Theron joined the NLS Board, his dedication to the needs of the low-income community helped keep our Board focused on this central purpose. He at times challenged other directors on behalf of NLS clients when it was necessary; he pushed us to care more; and he made our Board stronger for it. For his extraordinary service and support of the delivery of legal services to the poor Theron was chosen to receive the Mary Ellen Hamilton award conferred by NLADA ‒ a well-deserved honor. It would be difficult to find a more ardent advocate than Theron for the rights of disadvantaged people – which he powerfully displayed in his award acceptance speech, but he was not self-promoting; he did not seek adulation or praise; and humility was his calling card.
One of the traits we most appreciated about Theron was the respect, diplomacy and collegiality he exhibited toward others. Regardless of the circumstances of the moment, or the firmness of the views he held on an issue, he was always a gentleman and a gentle, caring man in the way he related to others. He always showed interest in other people; he displayed a genuine warmth and openness that made others feel at ease; and he did the hard work required to build relationships with all kinds of people. He went out of his way to help others, whether it was giving someone a ride to an appointment, or referring people in hard times to NLS, or personally advocating for those in need with whatever agency or bureaucracy that was causing a problem. And, he had a wonderful sense of humor.
Needless to say, Theron’s passing is a sad loss not just to his family, but to NLS and the Las Vegas community of which we are a part. We feel fortunate to have served with him in advancing the mission of NLS and blessed that we have been touched by his kind and charitable spirit. Theron will be missed by the many, many people he knew and the countless people he helped. We at NLS will miss him as a colleague, a friend and a source of inspiration for our entire organization. He left a legacy of humanity and dedicated service to others that is a model not only for NLS but for everyone.
Theron, dear friend, Godspeed! May you rest in peace! May all the good you shared live on in our hearts and minds! May your memory be a blessing to us all!
With sympathy and best regards,
John C. Courtney, Chairperson, Board of Directors
On behalf of NLS